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An MIT graduate displays some inspiration on his cap. Massachusetts is the perennial leader for Education and Technology & Innovation.
Pennsylvania, which moves into the top half at No. 23, posts the best all-around improvement. The Keystone State moves higher in five categories: Workforce (up 8 spots to No. 21), Economy (up 8 spots to No. 34), Education (up 11 spots to No. 10), Business Friendliness (up 7 spots to No. 28) and Access to Capital (up 7 spots to No. 5). It is the state’s best overall ranking in six years.
Connecticut’s 10-place move takes it out of the bottom 10, but the Constitution State still finishes a disappointing 33rd. Connecticut owes much of its improvement to a big jump in its Education ranking, climbing to No. 3 from No. 18, due largely to better high school test scores. But the state is in a budget crisis, with school funding a central issue as Gov. Dannel Malloy seeks to overhaul the state formula to redistribute money to districts in need. Meanwhile, Connecticut does poorly in Infrastructure (No. 47), Cost of Doing Business (No. 43) and Cost of Living (No. 45). With a number of high-profile companies leaving or thinking of leaving the state, a No. 33 finish in our Top States rankings is what passes for good news in Connecticut these days.
The biggest move in the other direction is Wyoming, which plunges 14 spots to No. 27 after the state’s resource-rich economy practically ground to a halt last year amid low commodity prices.
That also helps explain a new Bottom State for 2017. Suffocating under the weight of declining coal production, West Virginia falls to No. 50 from No. 47 last year. Other states bringing up the rear are No. 46 Maine, No. 47 Alaska, No. 48 Mississippi and No. 49. Hawaii.
Notice something missing from the bottom five? That would be Rhode Island — just barely. The state is still something of a mess, with high taxes, sky-high utility bills and America’s worst infrastructure. But efforts by the Ocean State to improve itself are paying off in a stronger economy. Rhode Island’s 45th-place finish is the best it has ever done in our study.
Each year, our Top States for Business study sparks plenty of debate and important conversations about what it takes to make a state competitive. Register your comments here, and on social media using the hashtag #TopStates.